Saturday, November 1, 2008

Therapeutic History: Part 5

Ms. S might well have been the best therapist out of all I've seen. Why would I say this? Because she was the only therapist to actually make an effort to teach me a survival skill. This proved to be a difficult task for her, as I was walking, talking, hormone-overloaded, emotional wreck. You know...a teenager. But while many of my friends seemed to come from warm, loving families, and were able to adjust nicely to life as it came at them, I was perpetually obsessed with the fact that my home life was a disaster. While a diagnosis was never discussed with me, I was depressed. Constantly telling my friend Mush was probably a big clue on that one.

In recent years, I have been braving the path of Memory Lane in more than just posts to a blog or on a forum. Occasionally, I have reached out to people from my past. One such person was a girl, now a woman, named Tara. It's strange when you gain the perspective of someone decades after you socialized with them. Tara said that I always seemed to be lonely and sad. I honestly had no idea it was that obvious to anyone other than Mush. Well, as long as she was unloading surprises, I confessed to having a crush on her way back when.

Put thousands of miles between you and someone else and confessions become easy.

Meanwhile, Ms. S was teaching me the ultimately useful skill of seeing other people's perspectives. Very, VERY useful, that skill. It sure would have been helpful if I had started using it right away, but I chose to wait until my late twenties before letting it sink in. Let's look at how such a skill might have been useful, shall we?

My brothers and I were given chores. Had the chore been along the lines of "rewire the entire house," one might see why the task wasn't done. No, our jobs were much simpler, like "do the dishes." Dad would come home from work, find the dishes overflowing in the sink, and the responsible child, me, missing in action. I was out with friends, having what fun I could, while I could. I would come home to find the dishes piled on my bed. Well, now I had cause to be terribly upset, and would not only have to do the dishes, but clean my bed.

I would bring such woes to Ms. S, and she was...well, my future self. No need for the time travel wish. It was as though she was channeling my brain from the present. "When you look at this situation, you are ultimately upset because you didn't do the dishes. If you had done them before going out, your father wouldn't have come home from a long day at work and find the kitchen a mess. If he didn't find the kitchen a mess, he wouldn't have felt the need to punish you. If you would just see this from his point of view, and do the job when it's assigned to you, you would not be upset right now."

Well, DUH! As you sit there and read this, you're likely asking, "You needed a therapist to tell you this?" Yes, I did. Other kids rebelled by doing drugs and drinking. I rebelled by not doing the dishes. Wildman, I.

Many of our sessions were like that, with Ms. S asking why I just didn't do what I was assigned to do. "Ummm...Would you believe I'm fighting the power? How about no longer wanting to take it from the man? Viva la révolution!" No, I never actually said that, but it would seem that was my attitude.

Speaking of attitude, while I was engaging in one on one therapy with Ms. S, our family of five was delving into family therapy. Oh, the thrills and chills that awaited us there! My mother might as well have transformed herself into a bullseye. The rest of us were firing whatever ammunition we could get out hands on, and hitting the target dead center each and every night we went.

The harshest comments came, not from me, but my youngest brother. I'm talking about comments that cut all the way to the bone, through the bone, and out through whatever flesh was behind it. "Why did you adopt me? You obviously hate your kids, so why me? Why couldn't you let someone who would love me adopt me?" Yes, Barry was an adopted child, and he was only 12 or 13 when he asked these questions.

With such questions being thrown at her, one would think my mother would sit back and say, "Wow. With that kind of anger coming from a kid, I must be doing something terribly wrong. It's time for me to work on my maternal skills before I lose all my kids." Okay, that's what a human would do. Instead, my mother seemed to say to herself, "They want hate? I'll give them hate." The angry screaming on her part increased.

When entering the wonderful world of psychology, professionals as a question. "Do you hear voices?" Well, I did...once. I was home alone, having slept in on the weekend. Rarely was it so peaceful in our house, and I realized that I should get up, become human, and get out before the peace could be shattered. I was in the shower when I heard my mother's voice shouting, "ROBERT!"

Oh, G-d...What have I done now? So I shouted back, "What?"

No response.

Fearing that waiting would only make things worse, I quickly rinsed off, stepped from the bathroom, calling across the house, "I was in the shower! What's wrong now?"

All was quiet.

With a confused look and a shrug of my shoulders, I finished my grooming and escaped before I could hear my mother screeching my name for whatever reason.

It's time for another instance where my future brain enters my past body. After imagining that I'd heard her voice while I was showering, I would have waited in the kitchen, probably sipping coffee and grumbling that flavored creamers weren't available yet. Upon my mother's arrival, I would have said, "Lady, and I use that word in its loosest terms, we have a problem. Remember way back when, a therapist claimed I saw you as a harpy ready, willing, and able to strike at any time? You had a chance in that moment. A chance to realize you were turning into your mother, a woman whom you despise. Instead, you've been cranking it up a notch every since, and now none of your children want to be in your presence. We hide in our rooms, or flee the house when we can, all to be away from you. They don't bring their friends here because they are afraid you'll embarrass them. You are continuing the cycle of abuse that you moaned about to your eldest son when he was all of nine.

"And now we have a new problem. You insatiable anger and perpetual ranting now has me imagining you're screaming, even when you aren't present. This is a very, very, VERY bad sign. You are scarring the psyches of your children to the point that they will suffer for it for the remainder of their lives. You are a psychological weed, whose roots go so deep that there is no yanking you out. All of our problems can be traced back to YOU. If you don't start fixing it now, you will learn what loneliness truly is."

Not that I expect her to listen. She'd probably start shouting early on, and be offended for receiving advice instead of actually listening. That I would be speaking as though I'd come from the future would escape her completely. Too much rage, not enough victims to tear apart verbally.

Come the end of high school, therapy would screech to a halt until my psych hospitalizations. The time in between would have me battling one of the Ten Commandments. When the hospitalizations came around, I would discover a hatred of "snap out of it," and then find myself bouncing from therapist to therapist.

The fun just never ends.

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